Cat Barber is as quick with the roster math as he is a crossover dribble.
Barber takes one look at N.C. State’s roster and notices there is only one point guard. That’s a change for Barber and the Wolfpack as his sophomore season begins Friday night against Jackson State.
Being the only true point guard doesn’t mean Barber can slack off when it comes to keeping coach Mark Gottfried happy.
“It’s good to keep him happy,” Barber said. “If coach’s happy, you should be happy.”
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Barber fluctuated between keeping Gottfried happy and frustrating him last season. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound McDonald’s All-American from Newport News, Va., showed tremendous potential in averaging 8.5 points and 3.5 assists per game and helping the Wolfpack get into the NCAA tournament.
But there were moments, namely a difficult 84-70 loss at North Carolina last Feb. 1, where Barber’s decision-making got the best of him.
Barber took 11 shots in the first half when the Tar Heels built a 40-23 lead and effectively won the game.
That loss served as a turning point for Barber’s freshman season. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Tyler Lewis and T.J. Warren became the team’s primary scoring option.
To his credit, Barber adjusted and figured out how to complement Lewis’ pass-first playing style and help the Wolfpack over the final 14 games of the season.
There was a learning process to his freshman season, Barber said, one he needed to go through.
“In high school, you know, I was the man, so I was known to shoot the ball every time,” Barber said. “When you go up another level, you gotta know the spots when to shoot. You have to know when there’s bad shots and when not to shoot.
“I think I got better at picking my shots.”
He did, notably in the ACC tournament. Barber had six assists – and only two shot attempts – in 26 minutes in a 66-63 win over Syracuse.
The next game against Duke he had 12 points, making 4 of 5 shots, in a 75-67 loss.
When Lewis transferred to Butler after the season ended, Barber was left with an expanded role. Gottfried is confident Barber can build on what he learned at the end of last season.
“He’s really trying to become a great facilitator,” Gottfried said. “I still want him to score but he really passes the ball as his first priority.”
Gottfried said Barber has spent the offseason working on becoming more of a coach on the floor. He will have help with junior guard Trevor Lacey, who can spell Barber at the point, but there is some relief for Barber in the clarity of his role.
“He knows he’s got the ball in his hands,” Gottfried said.
And that makes Barber happy.
“It’s my job to pace myself during the game and every time make the right play and keep the coach happy and keep the team happy,” Barber said.